Sheriff waylays deputy who plans to run against him

Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Cooper intends to run for sheriff.

Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Cooper intends to run for sheriff. Photo by Andy Porter.

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WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla County Sheriff John Turner has “cut loose” a 24-year veteran of the department who says he plans to run for election to Turner’s post in 2014.

Sgt. Tom Cooper recently told the Union-Bulletin that Turner relieved him of his duties at the Sheriff’s Office a week after Cooper filed pre-election paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission on March 27.

Cooper was an outspoken critic of Turner and a supporter of Turner’s opponent, Bill White, in the last election in 2010. Cooper said he decided to run because he has concerns Turner “has put politics ahead of public safety.”

According to a letter Turner gave Cooper, who provided it to the Union-Bulletin, Turner’s decision to sideline Cooper was because there was no more “light duty” available at the Sheriff’s Office.

Cooper was placed on light-duty status in December 2012 due to a recurring knee injury, first reported in September.

“It’s occupational disease is what they call it,” Cooper said. “My doctor said more likely as not this occurred over the course of a career.”

Cooper expects the results of a Washington State Department of Labor and Industries examination later this month. Meanwhile, the injury had kept Cooper, formerly a patrol supervisor, confined to the office.

“I would help out wherever I could,” Cooper said, adding he also helped Detective Gary Bolster and Crime Analyst Technician Matt Stroe with their workload. “I was in there helping with that load a little.”

On April 3, however, Cooper received Turner’s letter telling him no light duty was available. It said Cooper would have to use paid sick leave and then other paid leave including personal holiday and compensatory time, starting at the end of his shift that day.

Cooper said when his paid leave time runs out he could file for unpaid Family Medical Leave Act time. But Turner’s decision effectively “cut me loose,” Cooper said, though he is still technically employed at the Sheriff’s Office.

Cooper said the notice was delivered a week after he filed pre-election papers and a day after he gave Turner word that Cooper’s doctor said the sergeant’s knee was improving, though not ready for full duty.

“I got an improved medical report the day before Turner released me,” Cooper said, explaining the report would allow him to take on more duties.

Cooper also said a recent Labor and Industries medical examination gave him hope he can rehabilitate his knee, though an official report of results is due later this month.

“I thought it gave me some pretty good tools and advice on how to move forward,” Cooper said. “I gave the sheriff all that information.”

Turner told the Union-Bulletin he would not discuss details of his decision because it is an ongoing personnel matter.

“I do not want to violate anyone’s ADA, HIPAA or rights to privacy,” he said Tuesday.

Turner’s letter, however, outlined his reasons for removing Cooper from light duty.

“On April 2, 2013, you provided Chief Deputy John King with a letter from (your doctor) setting forth continued restrictions on your regular duties as patrol Sergeant,” Turner wrote. “At this time, light duty work is no longer available. Moreover, the county’s ‘limited, temporary time period’ for light duty assignment has now been exceeded.”

Turner told the Union-Bulletin the county does have a policy outlining how long a deputy may be placed on light duty, but said he would have to look it up.

The policy in full, as provided by Lucy Schwallie, personnel manager for Walla Walla County, reads: “It is the policy of Walla Walla County to grant ‘light duty’ status to full-time employees who, because of illness and/or injury, are unable to perform standard regular duties, and if such work is available. Light duty shall only be granted for a limited, temporary time period and only so long as such work is available.”

Cooper said he wasn’t aware of any set time limit, citing past injuries both he and other deputies suffered that were accommodated over extended periods.

Former Walla Walla County Sheriff Mike Humphreys said in a phone interview that keeping experienced, trained deputies makes fiscal sense for a sheriff’s department.

“There’s guidelines you have to follow,” Humphreys said. “If there’s a chance the guy is going to come back, you keep ’em, because you have a lot of money invested.”

Humphreys, who was sheriff for 13 years, also characterized Cooper as a knowledgeable employee with experience in a wide variety of operations.

“There’s lots of different jobs you can do light duty,” Humphreys said.

Cooper said he believes light duty tasks dried up when he filed his pre-election paperwork, adding he believes Turner has a history of targeting certain employees, especially those who supported Bill White for sheriff during the last election.

“There were five different agencies in 18 months investigating our own people,” Cooper said, citing investigations into at least four employees — including White, who was under scrutiny for allegations of insubordination and dereliction of duty.

White is the only employee who was subject to one of those investigations and remains employed at the Sheriff’s Office. According to Jaime Goldberg, the Commissioned Deputy’s Association lawyer, the matter is still being contested and is scheduled for binding arbitration in June.

Turner, however, denied any retaliatory motivation against Cooper.

“He is under no discipline,” Turner said. “It’s purely (a health) issue he brought to us.”

Turner added he wasn’t aware Cooper was planning to run for office until Cooper told him, and Cooper’s position as the president and chief negotiator for the Commissioned Deputies Association won’t be affected.

The Sheriff’s Office labor negotiations with the Deputy’s Association are ongoing, according to Deputy Brad Ansorge, association vice president.

“(Cooper) is still able to participate in that,” Turner said.

Turner would not identify who would take over for Cooper as patrol supervisor. Sgt. Barry Blackman, who recently was replaced as chief deputy by King, was listed as one of the four current patrol supervisors.

Luke Hegdal can be reached at lukehegdal@wwub.com or 526-8326.

Comments

ImJustSayin 1 year ago

Another non-story by the UB. Everyone in town knows Cooper has been planning to run. Also, the fact the UB never did follow up stories to all of those investigations shows there were real reasons for having them conducted.

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cropcircles 1 year ago

No light duty? Det Bolster and Dep Stroe must be all caught up. This sounds like retaliation. Maybe not as a result of Cooper planning to run but certainly because he was a major thorn in Turner's side during the 2010 election. Cooper is right on one thing. Turner has consistently targeted White supporters on what Turner calls insubordination or dereliction of duties. Not any of Turner supporters (what's left of them) can do anything wrong even when the goatee is a little obvious. The no light duty claim is bull. There's lots of suspect and victim interviews to be done, report writing and other things. And why the secret about who Turner reassigned to Cooper's Sgt spot so that he could bring his one friend from California? Does Turner think we are that dumb? Good for Cooper to take a stand. I hope more file against Turner and boot him out in August.

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cropcircles 1 year ago

Seriously. Is there anyone out there who actually believes anything Turner says anymore? He hides behind privacy laws or vague policies that he can't cite but he shows up on the white horse to save the day when someone has a loose hang nail describing it as a massive stab wound to the hand. I admit I was smitten by the guy, looked good, seemed to say the right things; but boy was I wrong. No light duty? Come on, does he think we're that dumb. All office work is light duty and there's plenty of that to go around. Good for Cooper to run against him. I hope several file and boot him out in August.

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clarkfamily89 1 year ago

I hope the voters of WW see the light and boot Sheriff Turner and the crew that came with him out the door and let the Sheriff's Dept. run effectively and quietly again. I didn't vote for Turner and I won't vote for him. All those voters that did vote for him I hope will not make that mistake again!

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ImJustSayin 1 year ago

Effectively? As in Lepiane effective?

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Tenring 1 year ago

Fancy nails stop hiding behind Carol's skirt

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clarkfamily89 1 year ago

I agree the Carole Lepiane mess was just that an out of control mess. However when Humphreys, Jackson, Kespol were our Sheriffs there was not constant crap coming up amongst their staff. They were not in the news every time you turn around. People complained that there was not enough coverage of areas, not enough deputies but they were not firing deputies nilly willy.

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ImJustSayin 1 year ago

Well.....when you turn a blind eye, you won't get that news coverage you mention.

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Hersey 1 year ago

Would you want your employer to air dirty laundry to the public about you if you were under investigation? They are called privacy laws for a reason.

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cropcircles 1 year ago

Where did you that Cooper was being investigated? Oh please we don't need another person making stuff up.

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tinstar 1 year ago

I certainly hope the citizens of Walla Walla County have seen the light on Mr Turner. It's time we send him packin. He has done no good for the citizens or employee's of Walla Walla. I praise Mr Cooper for standing up to him.

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wallyworldguy 1 year ago

My uncle, a very smart, down to earth guy once told me, "judge a person by his actions, not his words." Judging from the decisions turner has made the last few months and his weak explanations that don't add up or make sense it is becoming rather clear that turner is not who he wants people to think he is. If you need to hire, you hire from the area. You don't bring your buddy from califonia. Why would you let Cooper go when you know they are about to get a report from L&I by end of month?? There is always paperwork and other follow up type interviews that need to be done. Turner needs to go!! The sooner the better. Hope Cooper files lawsuit for wrongful termination.

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Tenring 1 year ago

I know for a fact the third blogger "ImJustSayin" is John Turner. That's why ImJustSayin is as big a liar as Turner.

A while back I saw Turner getting a pedicure at the Wilber Street nail salon. I thought what kind of cop gets a pedicure? I could see a male hair stylist, interior decorator or fashion designer getting a pedicure but a cop? Then I remembered he was from Los Angeles. What a nancy boy. I'm just sayin.

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ImJustSayin 1 year ago

Are you off your meds again?

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Tenring 1 year ago

I know for a fact the third blogger "ImJustSayin" is John Turner which is why they are equally prolific liars.

A while back I saw Turner getting a pedicure at the Wilber Street nail salon. I thought what kind of cop gets a pedicure? I can see a male hair stylist, interior decorator or fashion designer getting a pedicure but a cop? Then I remembered Turner was from L.A. What a nancy boy! I'm just sayin.

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Tenring 1 year ago

Over the last quarter century (that's 25 years for you Turner supporters) sheriffs Humphreys and Jackson ran the department without continual conflicts with the deputies, the press, the commissioners and other elected county officials. It seems quite obvious John (fancy nails) Turner doesn't play well with others. Fancy nails is like a little monkey running around trying to get all the bananas. It's time to seriously consider a recall election.

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cropcircles 1 year ago

YES! According to RCW 29A.56.110 it can be done. Where can I sign the petition?

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cropcircles 1 year ago

Yes! according to RCW 29A.56.110 it can be done. Where do I sign the petition?

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ImJustSayin 1 year ago

Do you know how to hit the "post reply" button only once?

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Tenring 1 year ago

Fancy nails I know you would never make the double post reply faux pas. Political miscalculation seems to be your specialty.

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ImJustSayin 1 year ago

If I was the Sheriff, I'd arrest you for impersonating someone with intelligence.

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cropcircles 1 year ago

He would need arrest powers in order to do that. Funny how the new captain and the undersheriff don't have arrest powers in Washington.

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barracuda 1 year ago

Carol Lepiane was also a civilian officer... with no arrest powers, and she too was the undersheriff.

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RuralBoy 1 year ago

I've never understood why we elected a county sheriff. Any idiot can win an election, but with an interview process, a team of interviewers, you sift out your wheat from your chaff pretty well.

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wallanative1966 1 year ago

The reason there was no conflict was because everyone got to do exactly what they wanted no matter if it was right or wrong. Sheriff Turner is actually holding people accountable for their actions and people actually have to work. It is the craziest thing ever. Cooper is a lazy lazy man that has tried everything to get out of working. Instead of just sucking it up and being a man. Why don’t some of you idiot s who post negative things on the UB blogs ask the Deputies who work with Sheriff Turner what they think of their boss. Don’t you see a trend that it is only a handful of the Good ole boys clan that always has something to complain about? If you are lazy and are not doing your job Sheriff Turner calls you on it and he expects the best of his employees. It makes me very happy that he is willing to do whatever it takes to make certain that our tax dollars are being spent wisely. Lastly haven’t any of you noticed that it is always the worthless employees who always complain about their bosses and their jobs? You all need to wake up and see the truth!

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barracuda 1 year ago

I do believe that some of these bloggers ARE deputies... This is the only way they can sound off without fear of disapline... And yes, there is a lot of eople out here needing to wake up and see the truth!

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ImJustSayin 1 year ago

yep.... Mr. Mosquito has posted

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ImJustSayin 1 year ago

Wallanative1966....... you nailed that one!

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cropcircles 1 year ago

I feel sorry for you because you are still believing in someone or something that so many of us, including me, believed. But I was wrong, very wrong about Turner. The deputies are very unhappy. There's no trust, you can't believe what Turner says, he is living example of hyperbole. It's all a show for him. Right now he's probably reading this, loving every minute of it because it's attention and he LOVES attention. It's sad. It really is and I'm sorry that we have to wait until 2014 to vote in someone new unless as Tenring suggests we go through the process of recall. I hope we do because the families of these deputies are suffering. The job is stressful enough. They don't deserve more stress caused by Turner. Its' just not right. These are good people.

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Tenring 1 year ago

Again with the good old boy charge? Turner has made the WWSO a good old boy system on steroids! Turner has reduced the department to an entity that provides retirement income to his Los Angeles buddies. The entire WWSO administrative staff is comprised of Turner's friends and LAPD buddies. The March/2013 training was by another of Turner's LAPD buddies held at the Whitman Hotel. There was firearms training hired out to Turner's training company Practical Edge. The hiring process at the WWSO is now known as the John's Friends and Family Plan.

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BestForWallaWalla 1 year ago

Wallanative if turner does expect the best from "his" employees why is it he is allowing a few of them to do things that are detrimental to our county? The good news is, turner WILL be beat in the election By Mr. Cooper. Many of those who voted for change in the form or John Turner now know the huge mistake they made and will not make it again. Turner has wasted more money in our county than any sherriff we have had. He has been far mor interested in making headlines than being a cop. It's just a shame that we the taxpayers have had to foot his wasteful bill.

I can't wait to say. I VOTED FOR SHERRIFF COOPER. !!!

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ImJustSayin 1 year ago

What "detrimental" things is he allowing to happen? Back up your statement or go away. By the way......who states they are running for local office when the election is more than a year away? That's a hint for you dopes you think the election is this year.

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Tenring 1 year ago

For God sake you ignorant tool. Look at this blog in which you recklessly and wantonly display your own ignorance. Do you honestly believe this controversy is not detrimental to the deputies, the department and the public? Do you believe this conflict occurred in a vacuum? What changed in the last two years causing the WWSO to become a public display of profound dysfunction for the first time ever? I submit to you the change was Turner. That went right over your sparsely haired head didn't it?

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Hersey 1 year ago

I, too, would like to know what detrimental things are going on.

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tinstar 1 year ago

Ref: Wallanative: If what you said was true about Turner holding the employees accountable for doing their job, Then why are two of the worst productive people still working there. A matter of fact both are sergeants, and are turners puppets. When will you figure it out.

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campbell_rd 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Sheriff Turner and Under-sheriff Freyer have cleaned up the department. I personally would trust my life to both of them in a second.

If more of you would support him and quit whining about personal issues like his grooming habits... it might look different.

Case in point, Sgt. Cooper who has been on extended light duty, with an election about a year away, brags about defeating Turner in the upcoming election. That officer isn't a asset for the department, he is a liability that should be fired. This shows complete disrespect for the office of the sheriff by a sworn officer.

The Sheriff is an elected official and deserves our respect. If you have legitimate gripe then express them with dignity and respect. These personal slanders make me ill. State the facts, express your opinion and show some respect!

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barracuda 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Cambell_rd.......

The office of the Sheriff deserves respect, and who ever the occupant of that elected office is, has a VERY short window of time to gain the trust and respect due to the office.

No one person is more DESERVING of any "extra" respect than anyone else, but in actions and deeds, some people, gain more pespect. Like wise, some people lose the respect of others thru actions and deeds.

It looks like Mr Turner's window is slamming shut rather quickly.

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